Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder commonly referred to as TMD is a set of conditions that cause pain and tension in the jaw and its surrounding muscles. The temporomandibular joint or (TMJ) connects the bones in your skull and works as a hinge. TMJ problems, which are a form of TMD, can cause you to have discomfort in the joints of your jaw and the muscles that regulate jaw movement.
Data is inconclusive on exactly how many people suffer from TMD. TMD is more common among young people. Research suggests that TMD starts due to a combination of life stressors, and psychological and genetic factors. Research from The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates between 5% to 13% of the population suffers from TMD. There are a lot of suggested causes of these conditions which are largely debated, due to there being no standard definition of TMD. Reach out to for more information.
The Anatomy of Your Jaw
The lower jaw, known as the mandible, is supported by muscles and joints on the side of your face. The rami are forked tips on both sides of the mandible that help it connect to the skull, each rami has two points. The front point is called the coronoid process and the point in the back is called the condylar process. The condylar process is the part of the mandible that connects to the temporomandibular joint, a joint located between the ear canal and the temporal bone. The mandible and joints work together like a sliding hinge so you can chew, speak, and yawn. These flexible joints enable your jaw to move up and down, while also allowing it to move side to side. Muscles that are attached to the jaw and surrounding the TMJ support the jaw, controlling its position and movement. The four muscles involved in chewing and speech are the medial pterygoid muscle, lateral pterygoid muscle, masseter muscle, and temporalis muscle.
What Can I Do About My TMD?
There are irreversible treatments said to cure TMD, but there is no credible evidence supporting these claims. These treatments include occlusal adjustments: orthodontic treatments of the crown and bridge to alter the bite, and surgeries. Surgeries have been largely controversial, they may be ineffective and create other issues. Most of these treatments are performed without a full understanding of the TMD’s cause. TMD in and of itself may not be the issue, but a symptom of another condition.
How Do I Know if I Have TMD?
TMD is measured and researched by asking patients about the type and duration of muscle, joint, and facial pain, difficulty with chewing, and joint sounds. The findings can widely vary. It is important, when possible, to avoid any permanent alterations to your jaw as research is still working to understand safe and effective treatments for TMD. There is no general consensus on how to perform a diagnosis of TMD. The exact source of TMD can be hard to pinpoint as it can manifest from many other ailments in the body. Most people reporting symptoms of TMD are experiencing a milder form of TMD. Their symptoms come and go, they may experience pain in the jaw for a brief moment, then the pain subsides.
Pain from TMD can be related to many other conditions such as ear or sinus infections, headaches, or facial neuralgias (nerve-related pain). A dental exam with one of our dentists at Schnierow Dental Care can help rule out potential causes of your jaw or facial pain before making any conclusions. They can help recommend more conservative, reversible treatments that can help alleviate your symptoms. If symptoms persist, you may need multiple visits or a physical exam by your doctor. Reach out to us at (424) 383-5005 to schedule a dental exam or for more information.